Investing in the Kingdom

Luke 19.12-27

Jesus is going away to receive His kingdom which He will establish upon His return. As His followers, we are commanded to carry out Jesus’ mission until He comes back…seeking and saving the lost. For the faithful, His return will be a time of rejoicing and celebration, but for the unfaithful and for the those who reject Him it will be a time of judgment.

We’re not told, but I have to believe that the first two slaves are not surprised by the response of the King at His return. I believe they know Him to be gracious and compassionate and generous. That’s what frees them up to operate from a place of confidence and courage rather than from a place of fear. There’s an excitement on their part to serve the Master and to take huge risks for the sake of the kingdom. And just like these two slaves, Jesus invites us into an ever-deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in our everyday lives with Him. He wants us to serve Him with joy and excitement and not fear. He wants us to get to know Him better through His Word and time spent with Him in prayer and in fellowship with other believers. Each of us has been entrusted with a mina…the gospel…the word of the King. And each of us is responsible for how we invest it…boldly, courageously, fearlessly, intentionally taking big risks for the kingdom.

The third slave, the other slave, did not invest in the kingdom. Instead of seeing the King as generous and compassionate and gracious, he saw the King as stingy and selfish and greedy. He did not know the King, and he did not trust the King, so what he had was taken away. So is the third slave in the kingdom? Can you be in the kingdom if you don’t know the King? Is it possible that there are those who think they’re in the kingdom for whatever reason, but will find themselves on the outside because they didn’t know the King? Folks who are relying on their good works or church attendance or status in the community or relationships…who like Judas who was one of the twelve, but really wasn’t one of the twelve…but do not really know the King?

Do you know the King? Do you know Him as gracious and compassionate and generous? Do you believe that He cares about you and your circumstances? Do you know that He loves you? If you know the King, how are you investing in the kingdom? How are you using your resources…your time, your gifts, your finances…to further Jesus’ mission? Are you being intentional about sharing the gospel with folks on your impact list? Are you eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return? Do you know the King?

Jesus is coming back. He will either be your King or your Judge. Which will it be for you? If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Then you too can hear, “Well done, good slave…” and share with Him in His kingdom reign.

Let’s pray.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Thy Kingdom Come

Luke 17.22-37

Jesus is coming back…it will be a glorious day for those who are ready, for those who have trusted in Him. But for those who are not, then like the days of Noah and Lot, it will be a day of sudden, unexpected, final judgment.

Clearly there is a warning here for those who have not yet trusted in Jesus…do so before it’s too late. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. Then you too can have a future secured in the kingdom. No need to fear the coming judgment. Jesus will be your King, not your Judge. Strength for today, hope for tomorrow.

But I do think there is a warning here also for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. Here is where the example of Lot is instructive. Noah is clearly a righteous man…clear from the Genesis account. Lot on the other hand…not quite as clear. His choices and actions leave a big question mark…especially when he ends up in Sodom as one of the elders of the city. Even though he’s a man of influence in the city, it’s clear as the story unfolds that he’s had zero spiritual impact on folks around him, including his wife. Abraham thought for sure at least there would be 10 righteous in the city after Lot’s tenure there. When the dust settles, we only know for sure that Lot is based on what Peter has to say (2 Peter 2.6-8). Without the mention of Lot being a righteous man living in Sodom…righteous soul being tormented day after day by their lawless deeds…not sure that we could make that call.

What was the difference between Lot and his wife? What would their friends have thought of them? My guess is…there was no noticeable difference. Lot and his wife looked the same on the outside…eating and drinking…going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom, but one was saved and the other destroyed. Lot is a believer who cared more about his stuff or the things of this world than he did the kingdom…like the soil with the weeds, he bore no fruit to maturity. Don’t be like Lot. If you’ve trusted in Jesus, know that you were not saved to go to heaven. Otherwise you would already be there. You were saved to be a part of God’s rescue mission…to make an impact on the kingdom…to share the good news of salvation through Jesus with a lost and dying world…to storm the gates of hell…to live a dangerous life…a life worthy of the calling.

How do we not be like Lot? How do we avoid the trap of simply “eating and drinking”, going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom? How do we ensure that folks are not surprised when they find out we are followers of Jesus? We have to be intentional. We have to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus through time spent with Him in His Word and prayer. We have to be intentional about spending time with other believers. We have to be intentional with those who don’t know Jesus around us. This is where our impact list comes in. It’s a tool that helps us to be intentional with bringing 1 person at a time closer to Jesus. All of which is possible because of the Spirit’s work in and through us. I love this quote from Tozer, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come.” May that be true of us.

Jesus is coming back soon…are you ready?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Counting the Cost

Luke 14.25-35

Salvation is completely free, but discipleship is costly. Our allegiance to Jesus must be far greater than our allegiance to our family or to our own self-interests. We have to love God more! Therefore, each of us must count the cost carefully before choosing to follow Him. Just as unsalty salt is useless, so a disciple who isn’t all in with Jesus is useless to the kingdom of God.

Very sobering words, but Jesus doesn’t save us just so we can go to heaven. He saves us so that we can join Him in His mission to rescue a lost dying world. It reminds me of a scene from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, where Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector serving as an army medic in Okinawa during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, after spending all day and most of the night single-handedly evacuating the wounded from the battlefield, prays and asks God, “Just give me one more.” And after that one, “Just give me one more.” And again, “Just give me one more…” Doss saved 75 men. That’s what we’re called to do as believers…to storm the gates of hell and ask God to help us rescue just one more. In the strongest possible terms Jesus invites us to make our lives count for eternity. He wants us to make a kingdom impact on those around us who don’t know Him.

Earlier we talked about the questions that we would ask before making an investment…What’s the cost? Do I have the resources to pull it off? Will it be worth it in the end? When it comes to discipleship…What’s the cost? Everything. Do you have the resources? Yes…the Father has given us the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who transforms us to live and love like Jesus. He empowers us to do what Jesus asks us to do. He gives us the ability and the want-to to love God more. Will it be worth it? Absolutely…the Father also gives us the kingdom. And the kingdom is everything. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” It’s about loving God more. I like that.

When we put Jesus first…when we love God more, it benefits all of our relationships…we love better, we serve better, we reflect Him better.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, let me urge you to do so today. He invites you to enjoy life with Him in His kingdom. You need only to respond…acknowledge your need to be rescued, your need for repentance, believe that Jesus can rescue you and trust in Him to do so. Then begins the adventure of your lifetime. Don’t wait.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s love God more this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-12

Let’s be honest…Jesus’ idea of blessedness doesn’t fit the ideal of the American dream. Those He lists as blessed are not necessarily the folks we would have picked. He doesn’t list the courageous, the wise, the popular, or the just. Not the the agreeable, the funny, the intelligent, the attractive, or the “it” kind of folks. It’s not the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. No…the blessed are those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth…the kingdom belongs to them.

Welcome to the strange world and wisdom of Jesus. Welcome to His narrow-gate theology that separates the “crowds” who want it all…health and wealth…right now and the “disciples” who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (cf. 5:1). Welcome to what it means to be “blessed” according to Jesus.

Choosing to follow Jesus…to be a kingdom citizen…is a dangerous proposition that will put you at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because when you choose to follow Jesus, you begin to live and love like Him. You start to embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in you is going to be obvious to folks around you. You will stand out like a light shining in a dark place. By doing that…by embodying these qualities and living this way, you are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if your life reflects the beatitudes, you will force a response from those around you. Some will persecute you and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

So how “blessed” are you? Do you recognize your desperate need for God? Do you mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world? Do you have a hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Are you showing the same kind of mercy towards others that you want God to show you? Are you actively pursuing peace with others?

As I said earlier, we never outgrow our need for Jesus. We’re all broken…even those of us who have trusted in Him. One day we will experience complete freedom from sin, but until that day we’re still in process. As Luther put it, “We are saved…we’re being saved…and we will be saved.” We are all addicted to sin…we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that keep us from experiencing the life that God intended for us. But again somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that only the really, really, really broken people need help. You know, those who need Jesus more than we do. But the truth is, we all need help. That’s why the picture of the church as a hospital is so powerful. We all need spiritual healing. And we need each other to help each other to experience it. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process. There is no spiritual transformation…there is no spiritual progress…we can not live and love like Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives. But as I’ve said it before, discipleship is a group project…it’s a team sport. We’re in it together. Success is not one person crossing the finish line, but “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13)

That’s what Celebrate Recovery is all about…about taking off our masks and being real about our brokenness, about bearing one another’s burdens, about encouraging each other to pursue Jesus, about spiritual and emotional healing. It’s a way of discipleship…a step by step process to overcome hurts, habits and hang ups. Now’s a great time to get involved…new year/new you…new opportunity to pursue Jesus.

Jesus’ definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live as kingdom citizens…as those whom the King calls blessed.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Celebrate Recovery series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Realizing Spiritual Freedom

Romans 12.1-2

We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups…those things in our lives that are stumbling blocks to us following Jesus…those sticky points that can cause us to be spiritually stuck. And though we have learned to come to church and pretend everything is ok…we’ve gotten good at wearing masks…for fear that if we are found out, folks will not like us, church is the one place it should be ok not to be ok. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” I think somehow we’ve forgotten that. We often think we can take care of our habits on our own…“It’s no big deal” “I can quit anytime I want” “I don’t need help with this hurt, I can deal with it in my own way.” But we all need help…only the Spirit can transform us to live and love like Jesus. He does that as we submit our lives to Him and spend time with God in His Word and in prayer. We also need other believers…Paul says the job’s not done until we all attain unto the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God…

As I thought about Paul’s challenge to offer myself to God as a living, holy sacrifice, something that Dallas Willard said in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, that really struck me was the idea of training vs. trying as it relates to the spiritual life.

Trying is an experiment and implies an attempt, which, if unsuccessful, constitutes the end and sum total of the experiment. Training, on the other hand, is a lifestyle, which has built into it the expectation of failure…each time you fail, you learn something different that will help you succeed in the future.

One of my favorite quarterbacks of all-time was Brett Favre. I’ve seen Brett play a lot of football games. Let’s suppose I watched every game that he ever played…just suppose. Let’s suppose I had studied every aspect of his game…from the way he grips the ball, to the way he scrambles in the backfield, even to the way he celebrates an outstanding play. (All from the comfort of my couch, of course.) If I were to go out this afternoon and play a pick-up game of football, bringing all of my Brett Favre-ishness to bear, do you think that I could play like Brett Favre? Now that hurts. Why don’t you think I could play like him? Right. If I haven’t trained like him…if I haven’t spent the hours in the gym and on the practice field that he has (talent aside), I have no shot at playing the game with the same level of excellence as he did.

The same could be said of the Christian life. Believing that I can live and love like Jesus in a moment of crisis without the necessary spiritual training is no more ridiculous than me believing that I could walk out of this auditorium and play football like Brett Favre. When Paul asks us to present ourselves as living, holy sacrifices, he’s not saying, “Give the Christian life a try and see if it works for you”, implying an experiment that may or may not be successful. But “Train for the Christian life and it will work for you”, implying a lifestyle choice. (imagery he has used elsewhere in his letters…farmer, athlete, soldier) As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.”

BTW do you know the difference between professional athletes and amateurs? Amateur athletes train until they get it right; professional athletes train until they can’t get it wrong. Paul knew this! He says in 1 Corinthians 9, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Please understand as we talk about training vs. trying that this does not in anyway imply that a person can make progress toward spiritual maturity apart from God’s work in his or her life. Nor does it imply that this is a solo gig. We need each other in the process. Becoming more like Jesus…sanctification…is a process…a lifelong process that will not be complete until we see Jesus face-to-face.

God used this passage in Romans to pry me loose from the spiritual quicksand that I found myself in a few years ago. Every now and again I have a tendency to wander towards the sand-trap…part of being a new creation in a fallen world I suppose, but as I’ve made the effort with God’s help to passionately pursue Jesus as a lifestyle rather than an experiment, and as I’ve surrounded myself with other believers who are pursuing Jesus too, I don’t find myself getting stuck quite as often.

Every moment of every day is a choice between being conformed to this world or being transformed…start the process today. Commit to offering yourself and renewing your mind.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding that you may walk in a manner worthy of Him, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Celebrate Recovery series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Whose Side Are You On?

Luke 12.49-59

Whose side are you on? Jesus says we are either for Him or against Him. There is no middle ground. There is no halfway. There is no both/and. For those who have heard Jesus’ word about the kingdom…who have recognized that they are in need of a Physician, that they are sinners in need of repentance…and who have acted on it…they’ve trusted in Him to rescue them, the kingdom of God is theirs. Their names are recorded in heaven for eternity.

But for those who have heard Jesus’ word about the kingdom and rejected it…they’ve chosen to trust in themselves or in their stuff or in anything else but Jesus…who chose to fear men rather than fearing God…they have an eternity apart from God in a place called hell.

Whose side are you on? If I were to ask your friends or co-workers, your classmates or teammates, your family or neighbors, would they know whose side you’re on? Is it clear from the way you live your life, or would they be confused about your answer? Jesus didn’t save us just to go to heaven…if that was His sole purpose then the moment we believe we would be there. No He saved us so that we would follow Him, so that we would be faithful and wise servants, investing in the kingdom…so that we would live lives worthy of the calling with which we have been called, so that we would walk in the good works He has given us to do. We were saved so that we would live and love like Jesus and join Him on His rescue mission, crashing the gates of hell and pulling folks out of the flames.

The Bible says that we are all guilty before God. We all have a sin-debt that must be paid. In the garden, God said that disobedience/rebellion was punishable by death, and so a death is required to pay the penalty for sin. The good news is that Jesus came to pay the penalty for us…He died so that we may live. That’s the baptism He had to undergo. His death covered all our sins, so that by trusting in Him we can be sons or daughters of the King. We must all appear one day before God…it’s an appointment we will not miss. And when we appear before Him, we will either have our sins forgiven already and know Him as Father…or we pay for them ourselves and know Him as Judge.

Whose side are you on?

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be clearly for Jesus this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Are You Ready?

Luke 12.35-48

Are you ready? If Jesus came back today…if He came back right now, would He find you faithful and wise? If not, why not?

Jesus told His disciples He would go away…first to a cross then He ascended into heaven. But He promised that He would return. That one day He would come back…that His kingdom would not just be a spiritual reign, but also a physical one. The end of sin and the reign of righteousness. No death. No tears. An eternity spent with our Creator and King, our Savior and Hero…forever delighting in His presence in new bodies that don’t break down or grow old or get fat. Hallelujah! That is our hope. And if that is our hope, then we must live with the end in mind.

So how do we do that? How do we live with the end in mind? By living a life worthy of the calling with which we’ve been called. Spending time in God’s Word getting to know who He is and, by the power of the Spirit, living in light of that truth. Spending time in prayer asking Him to transform us to live and love like Jesus. Acknowledging Jesus in the court here on earth. Faithfully following Him. Joyfully serving others. Loving our neighbors as ourself.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking, what’s the minimum that’s required? What’s the least I have to do and still get into the kingdom? That’s a scary question. Can you imagine standing at the altar with your future spouse asking them, “What’s the minimum you’re going to ask of me? I really don’t want to put forth that much effort.” Or if you were across the table from a potential future employer, and you asked them, “What’s the least I can do and still keep my job?” Or maybe you’re on a team and ask the coach, “I really want to be a part of a winning team, but I don’t want to have to do much. What’s the minimum requirement?” We wouldn’t do that in any other area of our lives, so why would we give Jesus anything less than everything? That’s why Jesus doesn’t clarify on the third and fourth responses. Like the parable of the soils…Jesus isn’t looking for the minimum. He wants everyone to be the faithful and wise servant…to be the good soil.

When Jesus returns, everyone will be evaluated on the lives they’ve lived…both believers and unbelievers. For believers, the evaluation covers the period of time from the moment you believed to the moment you are in Jesus’ presence. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 3…tested by fire and only what remains receives a reward, the rest is burned up. We will all smell like smoke…we all have things that we know we should do that we don’t or that we shouldn’t do that we do. It’s called sin. But as we progress in our Christian walk, we should see more and more faithfulness…we should begin to look more and more like Jesus. If not, there’s a problem.

If you haven’t yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Like a thief in the night, Jesus could return at anytime. And if you’re not ready, you’re fate is sealed. Now’s the time to trust in Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be faithful and wise servants this week as we anticipate Jesus’ return.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster